Manchester United face off against Reading on Saturday at Old Trafford in the third round of the F.A Cup. This will be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first knockout cup competition game in charge of the club. He couldn’t possibly have asked for better opponents to get things off to a good start.
Reading, who just 5 years ago were a Premier League team, are now second to bottom in the Championship. Life could not be worse at the Madejski Stadium at the moment. United on the other hand, are flying. A shocking start under Jose Mourinho saw him get sacked and his replacement, Solskjaer, has breathed new life into the club since his arrival. The Reds now have 4 wins on the trot and will be looking to make it 5 ahead of their mammoth clash against Tottenham next week.
The Christmas period proved to be a happy but exhausting one for United’s stars. Solskjaer has confirmed that he will take the opportunity to rest a number of his key players with the game against Spurs in mind. This could also be the perfect opportunity for the club’s fringe players to showcase their talents and prove their worth. Here’s what the line-up could potentially look like at the Theatre of Dreams:
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
David de Gea deserves a rest too every once in a while, and Sergio Romero is a very capable back-up. His last appearance for United came in a disappointing defeat to Valencia in the Champions League. He will be eager to keep a clean sheet against the Royals.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Ro-Shaun Williams, Ashley Young
Luke Shaw deserves a rest after starting every game during the Christmas period. There has been a lot of rotation on the right side, and Diogo Dalot should come back in for Antonio Valencia, who was very poor against Newcastle. Young, who has been used on the right this season, should come in for Shaw on the left. Ro-Shaun Williams is a young player who has shown a lot of promise, and could come in to let Victor Lindelöf have a rest.
Midfielders: Fred, Andreas Pereira, Angel Gomes
Both Fred and Pereira have been out of favor at United this season, but this could be a chance for them to finally prove themselves. Angel Gomes is one of the most talented players at the club, and undoubtedly has a very bright future ahead of him. He should be given a chance to start.
Marouane Fellaini could also potentially start, but Solskjaer could not give a definitive answer about his level of fitness.
Forwards: Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Tahit Chong
Solskjaer confirmed that both Sanchez and Lukaku will be given a chance to start. This will be Sanchez’s first start in over a month, having been out of the side through injury. He came on for the final 25 minutes against Newcastle and showed some promise, getting the assist for Marcus Rashford’s goal.
Lukaku, too, has missed quite a few games due to personal reasons, and will also have his first start in a while. Under Solskjaer, the Belgian has played the role of a super-sub, scoring two within seconds of coming on in both of United’s last two games. Tahit Chong has been a sensation for the club’s reserves and will be eager to make a name for himself with the first team.
Mason Greenwood has been tearing it up in the youth squad this season, and could make an appearance on the bench.
A special mention to John O’Shea, who returns to Old Trafford on the opposing team. The defender is a United legend, having graduated from the club’s academy and going on to make 400 appearances across 10 years. He won 14 trophies during his stay at the club, including five Premier League titles, the F.A Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.